Thursday, March 03, 2005 4:23 AM

Hand Evaluation -  Doubles ( Maximal Game Try )




            My partners & I play Kokish game tries in competition at the two level. When the opponents give us enough room at the two level to bid 2NT ( spades )  or 2 if we found our heart fit , we still use this great game try system. Giving us room in most cases just means LHO has overcalled & RHO leaves us alone. 1-2-2-P gives us room at the two level to do our thing. What if RHO joins the party & forces us to the 3 level ?


            Maximal game try doubles were defined for the 3 level for both opening bids & overcalls . Maximal doubles are game try doubles but with a caveat. The opponents bid in the sandwich position must be at the 3 level plus being a suit only one rank below our trump suit. This shuts out bidding a suit as a game try for us so the double is a game try instead. When the suit is two removed from ours , the double is straight penalty. Having this understanding makes all our trump suit bids as competitive. It is not a free bid showing any extra but just a “fear” that they can make their contract or to bully them ( advance sacrifice so to speak )  when  your suit is higher ranking.


          In the early days of Bridge , bidding your suit again was a game try. This makes no competitive sense in the modern game ,  so a game try double must replace the bid. This occurs when the opponent’s suit is higher ranking than your game try suit.  Perry bid a hand nicely in a recent team game using a game try double thus avoiding a single handed -800 disaster. The opponents nv vrs vul open 1 & Perry overcalled 1♠. I raised to two spades & opener backed in with 3. This foiled Perry’s plans as he was about to make a game try. Should Perry leap to 4♠ single handedly & take partner out of the picture ? Of course not , so Perry doubled. I bid 3♠ which the opponents misdefended so Perry got out for one down. This was a one IMP pickup since our partners were +140. A systemic victory for us.


            Playing with a tormentee tonight who opened one spade with ♠AJ109x A1087 x ♣Qxx  & I responded 2 . RHO came in 3 vul against not. This is not a maximal double situation as diamonds are not directly below spades. You have a minimum but it is not a defensive minimum as you have a stiff in their suit. This is a clear 3 bid as your stiff being in their suit is gold for offensive purposes & you have controls in your two suits. A pass gives partner the wrong impression that you do not want to compete as you must have some balanced minimum. I held ♠Qxx Qxxxxx Q98x ♣void so since they were vul & partner did not want to compete , I thought I would try for the magic +200 . Partner should have two or 3 diamonds herself for the pass so I thought they were in the wrong strain ( cold for game in clubs ? ) & passed. Wrong ! 4 is cold & partner led a club on the go as the only lead to beat 3 ! We got a zero for that result as there were +420 and +170’s all over the place .


            The concept of “free bids” to show extra has gone the way of the dinosaur . Competing with a fit at the 3 level is just that , competing. A singleton in a suit bid at the 3 level is gold . This should mean that all their 10 HCP’s in diamonds are useless defensively. It’s like using splinter theory without splintering !! This minimum hand has grown in the auction thanks to the opponents . Partner gets a wrong picture of your hand when you pass.


            Same auction , but RHO bids 3 instead of 3 , you have ♠AKxxx xx AKxxQx . The 3 bid has robbed you of room to make a game try at the 3 level . You cannot just compete by bidding 3 as you are too strong. A double here is a maximal game try saying I have the old fashioned 3 free bid type of game try. This clever use of a double ensures that you can always compete at the 3 level even with distributional minimums. The only hands that you should not compete with are balanced minimums or length in their suit with the right vulnerability. The  meek do not inherit the earth” in Bridge.


            The maximal game try double is another tool to allow you to compete better by getting rid of the silly trump stack penalty double in competition. Partner knows that when you bid you are truly competing or maybe doing something tactical to impede their progress.